Gardening: Summer Tour – by Marcus Brandon Gray – Part 2


Musconetcong Watershed Association

Many people may not realize but North Jersey is characterized by the same Appalachian Mountains as western Virginia that stretch all the way to Georgia and Alabama. In fact, North Jersey and Southwest Virginia are in the same Appalachian Bird Conservation Region (28, The Musconetcong River occupies an area dominated by maple, white ash and sycamore along its banks and floodplain up to forested ridges with a uniform canopy of hardwoods. The area has invasive species issues with multiflora rose, Japanese knotweed, barberry and more.

The native plant gardens and meadow of the MWA’s River Resource Center ( in Asbury, NJ are worth a visit! Dedicated Trustees and Volunteers for the organization host a Native Plant Sale every year drawing plant material from multiple local nurseries that do not use systemic pesticides which are harmful to pollinators. Since construction of the RRC, the gardens surrounding the building have featured a wide variety of plants that bloom throughout the season. The site features a 10-year old riparian buffer and multiple beds that attract butterflies, bees and hummingbirds. Some species are a single individual plant within hundreds of plants of different species. Many of the plants found on the site are perennial and woody but there is plenty of herbaceous growth. The meadow below the RRC has been a work in progress for 7 years with native, herbaceous perennials being interplanted with grasses. A mowed trail and benches provide easy access and the ability to sit and enjoy all the activity!

I have reached out to the primary people responsible for management of the garden and have canvassed them to certify through NABA. It would be a great addition to the program.


Powhatan Wildlife Management Area

Central Virginia is where the hardwood forest and horse farms transition to pine plantations and row crops of the Tidewater Region. 40 minutes west of Richmond on US 60, the area still retains rural charm in the face of ever-expanding sprawl. The property gets a good amount of use year round due to its proximity to the capital city. There is a nice loop trail that takes you across the berm of one lake on the way out and a second on the way back. All the while you traverse a white oak-dominated forest with enough light on the trails to promote understory growth.

I arrived a few days after a heavy rain so depressions in and adjacent to the dirt access roads has exposed mud in the 90-degree heat. The exposed mud was very attractive to butterflies. Simulating this process in your garden could earn you more butterfly attention! There were dozens and dozens of butterflies “puddling” from Eastern Tiger Swallowtails to many American Snouts.

The amazing find was a buttonbush on the edge of one of the lakes with 10 Eastern Tiger Swallowtails nectaring on it. The plant was moving with large butterflies! If you have a water feature in your garden or have other appropriately low, wet places – consider adding a buttonbush.


Drew University

In mid-August, I found myself on campus of Drew University in Madison, NJ. Between the Hall of Sciences Greenhouse and route 124 (Madison Ave.) there is a lovely little pollinator garden. This suburban oasis features park-like oaks that leave gaps large enough periodically to situate gardens like this in full sun. The bed is comparable in size to something a homeowner might create (about 1/16th to 1/8th of an acre). Interplanted throughout the simulated prairie are Milkweed, Coneflower, Bee Balm, Black-eyed Susan, partridge pea, small sunflowers and several more in smaller amounts. The site was simply buzzing with native bees and wasps – crawling with beetles. There were no butterflies seen but I know some had to have been there earlier in the season when the coneflowers weren’t as far gone. Multiple species within the planting were past but there were late bloomers coming on.

At the entrances to two enclosures (fenced to prevent deer browse), Faculty and students have planted a variety of native woodland and woodland opening species to increase richness and study. The planting just within Hepburn Woods was truly spectacular in relation to its size the day I visited. Joe Pye Weed was in full force and extremely active with butterflies and bees. Pokeweed, cardinal flower, tall phlox and dozens of natives are situated in a forest clearing with a wide bed of mulch as you approach. I saw 10 Silver-Spotted Skippers, 2 Cabbage Whites (athletic fields are nearby), 1 Pipevine Swallowtail and 1 Eastern Tiger Swallowtail during my brief trip.

At the time of writing, I began the process of communicating with Drew University Staff about NABA certification and other partnership opportunities. I look forward to visiting more gardens for the remainder of the butterfly flight season. Hopefully, I’ll run into some of you in the field!





Butterfly Gardening: Oswego Tea (Monarda didyma)

Monarda didyma ‘Jacob Cline’

Part of the mint family, oswego tea plants produce tufted red flowers concentrated primarily at the end of each stem with a bloom period of at least a month. Deadheading (the removal of dying flowers) can extend the bloom period even longer. For gardeners who appreciate hot (some might say clashing) color in the garden, plant oswego tea next to butterfly milkweed.

(Via, dark green areas represent where Oswego Tea is native, while light green areas represent where it is not native but common. Yellow areas represent where it is present but rare.)

Powdery mildew can be a serious problem with oswego tea. A natural cross M. didyma ‘Jacob Cline’ is a mildew and rust resistant cultivar of oswego tea. It also has the potential to grow much taller than the species, up to six feet in some cases. The cultivar ‘Raspberry Wine’ also gets a call-out in some of our butterfly gardening guides. You can find them here:

Oswego Tea Cultural Requirements
USDA Hardiness Zone: 3- 8
Bloom Period: June to August
Bloom Color: Red
Plant Height: 36 to 48 inches
Plant Spread: 24 to 36 inches
Light Exposure: Sun to light shade
Soil Moisture: Average
Animal/Disease Problems: Deer resistant, powdery mildew may be a problem (see the ‘Jacob Cline’ cultivar as noted above)

Gardening: Summer Tour, by Marcus Brandon Gray, Part 1

Garden/Habitat Tour

Over the summer I’ve been spending time in various gardens while traveling. It gives me an opportunity to see what people are doing and speak with them about NABA’s Garden Certification program. On these trips we discuss the goals of the property, cruise the plants currently on the site and go over potential native options based on the region. One critical aspect of butterfly gardening is providing a combination of caterpillar food and nectar source plants. The idea is to provide blooms throughout the season with different varieties coming into maturity as the warmer months progress. Since I enjoy various outdoor activities, it gives me a chance to visit places where I can see butterflies using their natural habitats so I discuss a trip to public land as well.


My Vegetable Garden

I grow vegetables in a low intensity way. Once plants become established, I tend not to weed very much. I don’t spray. I don’t dust anything. If it makes it, it’s fine. More plants survive than some would think. I won’t say I just plant and come back later to see what’s left but by some people’s standards that’s fairly close. Interplanting is fun and I’m a fan of “the three sisters” and other combinations meant to reduce weed problems, disease spread, pest proliferation and provide other mutually-beneficial services like nitrogen fixation and other soil building activities. Perhaps it’s my background as a Wildlife Biologist that accounts for my hands-off attitude or maybe it’s traditional knowledge passed down from the older generation that understood nature’s rhythms and how to best eek a living out of the frontier. Hard to say, maybe I’m just lazy because I loathe mowing too. As the Executive Director of the North American Butterfly Association, not to mention the father of 3 children under the age of 5 years old, you can imagine multiple reasons why I don’t spray insecticides all over our food. I want our children to be exposed to gardening and nature with as few carcinogens as possible.

A vegetable garden certainly attracts bees and butterflies. My Great Grandmother in Missouri always had a row of Zinnias at the end of her garden. Her daughter, my Grandmother, was a farmer’s wife and loved to garden with native wildflowers and their cultivars. Great Grandpa was religious about maintaining bluebird boxes on his farm with one box on every other fence post. My Aunt is a Master Gardener and most of my extended family is involved in conventional agriculture. My Grandparents on both sides made their living off the land but the operations were (still are, honestly) less intensive than you might think. They planted cover crops, put in other conservation plantings to build soil health and prevent erosion. They were among the first to employ no-till planting and left fields fallow for a period to recover. Our family’s cattle spend 99.9% of their lives on grass but were never marketed as “grass fed.” It’s interesting how the old ways are now in vogue!

I grew up gardening with my parents. Dad loves tomatoes. Most people I know adore tomatoes. I have never really liked tomatoes but I plant them anyway. Tomatoes are the host plant for the infamous hornworm. I wanted to share a photo of a hornworm from my garden. I like them because they put a dent in my tomato production and they become the really cool Sphinx Moth!


Hilltop Berry Farm & Winery

Hilltop ( is owned and operated by Kim and Greg Pugh who have perfected the art of making mead. Since they produce fruit crops for direct sale and for use in value-added farm products, the Pugh’s are concerned about all pollinators. The farm currently has 9 honey bee hives and is surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains in Nelson County, Virginia. The Pugh’s have only recently begun keeping cattle but have produced blackberries, blueberries, elderberries and orchard fruit for years without using pesticides. If anything, light grazing will improve pastures and you all know how much butterflies like dung! The Rockfish River bottom below the farm provides great low meadow and riparian habitat with a rich plant community. The ridges are dominated by tulip popular, oaks and hickories. Forestry is a major source of income in the region so the vegetative structure is diverse.

Tourism is increasing all the time due to the character the mountain towns possess. Most of the farms in the region are relatively small and irregularly shaped due to the topography. The lack of uniformity equates to odd areas which can provide natural host and flowering plants across the landscape. Kim would like to increase planting specifically designed to attract and increase the populations of butterflies. Greg and I had a lengthy discussion about mowing schedule.



We spent some time talking about all the flowering plants they currently have with their operation but went on to list native plant options well-suited for western Virginia. Just a few include: Turtlehead and Joe Pye Weed for wetter sites, collecting local milkweed pods when they are ready, Coreopsis, Purple Cone Flower (Echinacea), Black-eyed Susan, goldenrod and others. Of course, I had to try the blackberries which were delicious! The Pugh’s are exploring a special edition product with a unique label designed to donate a portion of the proceeds to NABA. This is very exciting so stay tuned on that front!


Job Posting @ Perdue University: Research Technician in Monarch Ecology and Conservation

Job: Research technician in monarch butterfly ecology and conservation

I am seeking an individual who can assist with research efforts in the Kaplan Lab ( in the Department of Entomology at Purdue University (West Lafayette, Indiana) aimed at understanding the potential impact of pesticides on monarch butterflies. This research includes quantifying how neonicotinoid seed treatments from corn and soybean, along with other agrochemicals, affect monarch development on milkweeds growing near agricultural fields. Primary responsibilities would include maintaining milkweed plants, rearing monarch caterpillars, and keeping detailed records of developmental success (e.g., weight, instar, adult longevity, etc.). This position would be ideal for a recent graduate (BS or MS) looking to gain additional research experience before entering graduate school.

Starting date: ASAP, but no later than January 2017

Duration: This is a one year position with possibility of extension.

Qualifications: BS or MS in entomology or related fields (ecology, agriculture, botany). Preference for individuals who have prior experience with maintaining plants and rearing insects. Also, background in chemistry would be beneficial.

Salary is commensurate with experience.

If interested, please send a cover letter, CV, and contact information for 3 references to Ian Kaplan at

Ian Kaplan
Associate Professor
Department of Entomology
Purdue University

Happenings – NABA Spokesperson – Click here to find out more

Musician to Serve as Butterfly Association Spokesperson

Singer-Songwriter, Meredith Jones is teaming up with the North American Butterfly Association (NABA) to build awareness of butterfly conservation needs. Founded in 1992, NABA is a non-profit organization that promotes public enjoyment and stewardship of butterflies. Jones will help spread the word about NABA’s work and communicate the importance of butterflies as indicators of environmental change. Butterflies are sensitive to impacts from development, pesticides and a shifting climate. They are the proverbial “canary in the coal mine” for the health of ecosystems and respond to stressors faster than other animals. Butterflies act as an early warning system for degradation in addition to being major pollinators for a variety of plants.

During her upcoming tour, Meredith will share her passion for nature with audiences and highlight the enjoyment butterflies bring to her life. Also, a social media campaign is planned. Inspired by environmental causes, Jones understands the significance of pollution and other factors on people’s lives. Butterflies are a great way to introduce a new generation to the outdoors and raise the profile of wildlife viewing. Gardening for butterflies is therapeutic and can educate both urban and rural residents about larger issues. Habitat loss is the primary reason for declining butterfly populations. It is common for a butterfly species to rely on a specific host plant as the food source for its caterpillars. If the plant is gone, the butterfly is unable to reproduce.

Prairie species are rapidly declining due to historic and modern conversion of native grasslands. In the news, indiscriminate spraying to control mosquitos is killing butterflies along with bees in The South. Expanding knowledge about the role disease plays in butterfly management is of increasing importance. Of course, the status of the Monarch has been receiving a great deal of attention in recent years.

“Raising awareness about the environmental significance of butterflies is a priority for NABA and is a cause that deeply resonates with me.”

-Meredith Jones


To learn more about Jones’ music and her commitment to conservation visit her Facebook page or follow along on Twitter and Instagram.
The North American Butterfly Association (NABA) is a 501 c(3) non-profit entity headquartered in Morristown, NJ. The organization’s largest project is the National Butterfly Center in Mission, TX. Through an active Chapter system and engaged membership, NABA works locally to promote on-the-ground conservation work and institutes policy initiatives to further its mission. For more information visit Connect with us on social media @NABAButterfly.

Education – Student Chapters – Click here to find out more

(Sierra Sulphur photographed by our President, Jeffrey Glassberg in Yosemite National Park, Tuolumne County, California)

North American Butterfly Association Seeks Student Chapters

NABA, the largest single organization dedicated to the study and enjoyment of wild butterflies, is announcing the opportunity for butterfly enthusiasts at colleges and universities to establish Student Chapters. Institutions of higher learning foster environmental stewardship in the next generation, enhance butterfly research and work to engage communities on and off-campus. By partnering with students and their faculty sponsors, NABA intends to extend the reach of its mission and interface with today’s (and future) natural resources leaders.

Student Chapters will be integral to increasing butterfly counts across the continent, hosting field trips and inviting guest speakers to campuses across Canada, Mexico and the United States. These activities will highlight the conservation needs of butterflies in the face of intensified land use and other population threats. Creating and maintaining quality pollinator habitat will be an important undertaking for the new Student Chapters. NABA’s immense 30-year data set for butterfly populations will serve as unprecedented material to be analyzed through student projects.

Student Chapter meetings will be open to the public to improve the collaborative nature of gatherings. Membership benefits include access to NABA publications: American Butterflies & Butterfly Gardener. Students will be exposed to networking opportunities which will result in on-the-job training in butterfly identification, study design, survey techniques, data management and learning host plants necessary to complete butterfly life cycles.

Those interested in forming a Student Chapter should contact NABA’s Chapter Liaison, Laura Bianco at to receive sample bylaws and other information. The North American Butterfly Association (NABA) is a 501 c(3) non-profit entity headquartered in Morristown, NJ. The organization’s largest project is the National Butterfly Center in Mission, TX. Through an active Chapter system and engaged membership, NABA works locally to promote on-the-ground conservation work and institutes policy initiatives to further its mission. For more information visit Connect with us on social media @NABAButterfly.



Supporting NABA

By donating to the North American Butterfly Association (NABA) today, you are doing your part to protect butterflies and other pollinators locally and across the continent.

When you make a donation to NABA, you are:

Demonstrating to others the important role that butterfly enthusiasts play in the conservation of wildlife, helping to sustain species and preserve biodiversity=

Informing, educating and implementing activities that explain that wildlife viewing is playing an increasingly important role in natural resources stewardship and land management.

Working directly with our network of chapters and individuals to fund, design, and carryout international and local initiatives for enhancement and education that introduce more people to the wonders of Butterflying and nature observation.

Helping to encourage people for the first time to view butterflies as wildlife and essential components of the ecosystems upon which we depend.

To learn even more about NABA, please visit our social media outlets to get updates about activities and see how your generous gift helps us preserve butterfly populations for future generations.

Yours in Conservation,

North American Butterfly Association